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The Planning Process: The Best Approaches to Oil and Gas Pipeline Network Optimization

The way in which a developing field in the Oil and Gas industry is planned will differ from project to project. When considering the area, the presence of assets for tie-ins, the possibility of future development, and many more factors – honestly, so many more factors – our teams must choose the approach to development that best supports these circumstances.


There are multiple methods for planning the optimal locations of Pipeline Gathering Systems, Well Pad Sites, and Access Roads in a field. These approaches are unique in their outcome and highly dependent on where you are now and where you want to be. They include...

  • Standard Optimization

  • Backcasting Development

  • Forecast Installments


Are you on the hunt for an overview of potential locations for assets? Do you want a full view of the network as it will stand – for now, setting aside the concerns of phases and timelines? An approach that can be referred to as Standard Optimization allows for just that, generating features based on your team’s spatial data. Data that includes a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) for the study area, constraints data, existing infrastructure, and the like.

It provides an overview of the Pipeline Gathering System and/or Access Roads in their entirety without regard to a timeline – an asset when you need to know the areas in which development may occur but are not yet focused on the cost-factors involved. Seeing the full picture allows your team to discover and customize those settings and variables – such as whether to completely avoid a particular area or assets to pass through a subsection of it – that have the greatest impact on efficiency of construction and production.

Even better? Optimizing is this fashion allows you to display multiple options for decision-making prior to determining timelines, getting the details just right before…you know…putting money where your pipelines could be.


Your team has already decided how and where your new assets will be built…but have they come to a decision on when? Establishing a plan for production based on Backcasting Development may be just what you need.

With this approach, the entirety of the network is broken into more manageable bites. Pipeline Gathering System routes and Access Roads are placed in relation to Well Pad Sites with the goal of better optimizing each phase of development.

This method for development has your back, but what is it actually good for? Planning teams with a clear idea of the final layout of the system are able to address budgeting and timeline concerns by fully optimizing each phase. Network layouts can be broken out based on the number of phases, proposed dates, or the duration of the overall project – not to mention, you can fully utilize assets built as tie-ins for each coming phase to stay well within the allowed budget.

Bonus Points: If you are working in a well-established network with a line that’s nearing retirement, Backcasting Development can be used to help you discover a better, more efficient route as a replacement.


Does your company plan to acquire more leases in the coming years? Does your team feel more comfortable casting development based on optimization of each phase rather than the overall network? Do you just want to be able to see what the next few years could hold?

If that answer is a resounding yes…well, this approach may be for you. The placement of assets can be impacted by any number of factors – Why optimize the entire network when new leases could be acquired or new Well Pad Sites could go online in the near future?

By employing the Forecast Installment approach in your planning process, your team can product results based on close-range outlooks on production to better plan the pipeline network. Each year’s plan is optimized by using existing infrastructure as tie-ins where possible and daisy-chaining new Well Pad Sites to existing locations as allowed.

By providing a close-range outlook on the production of Pipeline Gathering System and Access Road networks, you provide the flexibility a developing field needs in order to be truly efficient. For planning teams who are interested in an overview of the system but are only focused on optimizing those assets that fall in more immediate timelines, this forecasts success.


When it comes down to it, the approach you take in your own planning process will depend entirely on the scope of the project, the data with which you are working, and the interests of your organization. Each approach is valuable in its own right. The real concern is, do you have the right tools to ensure success no matter the route you take?


Integrated Geomancy is an Add-In for ArcGIS that enables Oil and Gas professionals to better plan the placement and routes of assets like Pipeline Gathering Systems, Transmission Pipelines, Well Pad Sites, Access Roads, and more. The toolkit takes a comprehensive approach to the planning process, allowing teams to build a model of the area in which construction will take place - incorporating data like elevation, environmental zones, populated areas, etc. More information and examples of the application in use can be found at


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